Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday 31 December 2016

Overthinking by The Yellow Meeple - Top 5 Board Games of 2016

This year I feel as though we’ve struggled to play many hot new games. We definitely get fewer opportunities now that we’ve moved house and don’t have any regular gaming groups. There’s still a huge list of popular titles from 2016 that I’m really keen to play! So, to be clear from the outset we’ve not played a comprehensive list of games released in 2016, but I’m actually pleasantly surprised that we’re pretty much on a par with the number of 2015 releases we’d played at the end of 2015.

In the spirit of full disclosure, these are the games we’ve played; Quadropolis, Knit Wit, Yeti, Onitama, Dingo’s Dreams, Captain Sonar, Secret Hitler, Imhotep, Mystic Vale, The Networks, Automobiles, Tatsu, Ice Cool, Animals on Board, Oceanos, City of Iron (2nd Ed.)

So here’s the Yellow Meeple’s Top 5!

5. The Networks is a game that’s all about the unique theme of running a television network. I find it difficult to describe the Networks in terms of mechanics, but in terms of theme you are selecting shows to run at 3 different timeslots on your TV networks and assigning stars and adverts to them to increase their popularity or increase your revenue. Every seasons your shows age and their number of viewers decreases and since viewers are victory points in this game you’ll want to refresh your shows and some will go into re-runs where they earn you a small number of viewers. The game is really thematic and has a lot of good strategies to play with. We’ve only played a few times but will definitely play The Networks some more.

4. Captain Sonar TURN BASED ONLY! My first game of Captain Sonar was fantastic. We played a turn based game and found it really fun. The game plays 8 players in teams of 4 and each team controls a submarine. One player decides what direction to take the submarine, one player listens to the other team to plot where their submarine is moving, one player mans the ships weapons and the other ensures that the ship’s systems are functioning. The game becomes a complex version of battleships whilst one submarine hunts for the other. The alternative with Captain Sonar is to play real time – something I was really excited about, but that unfortunately just resulted in shouting, mistakes and no hope of ever finding the other submarine except through luck. If I could consistently get together 8 people willing to play this turn based then Captain Sonar would be a favourite on my shelves!

3. Oceanos was a surprise hit for us this year. The box art stood out to us and the designer’s name Antoine Bauza definitely swayed us into buying the game. The game is a combination of card drafting, engine building and set collection in a setting under the sea. As you draft cards you’ll collect different fish, power up submarine upgrades, locate buried treasure and build a coral reef – all creating a 3-layered underwater scene on the table for each player. Overall the game is really simple, but looks gorgeous on the table as well as providing a satisfying and quick game.

2. Quadropolis was Days of Wonder’s release this year and once again they did not disappoint. In Quadropolis the theme is city building, but it’s achieved with just a few very simple rules, and a nice clean mechanic for purchasing new elements to your city. It’s easy to teach, so much so that I took it home this Christmas to share with my parents, but it’s also satisfying for gamers. Anyone can easily play the game, but I still often find myself just playing and not thinking about a good strategy to win. As always the components are great, colourful and engaging and with a playtime of just around 30 minutes for the two of us, Quadropolis should continue to hit the table pretty regularly for us.

1. Mystic Vale is my favourite of the year, but by no means one of my favourite games in our collection. Nevertheless it gets my top spot of 2016 for its unique approach to deck building – a mechanic that we love. The card crafting mechanism allows you to add three different abilities to each card in your deck. This allows both great combos in the card as well as combos with other cards in your deck. Otherwise the game is a pretty standard deck builder with currency to buy upgrades in your mission to have the most victory points. In addition there is one extra mechanism where collecting mana symbols allows you purchase permanent abilities which often become game changers in our experience. All in all, Mystic Vale a very solid deck-builder with some new and interesting mechanics and one I currently want to play again and again.

As for the games I’ve not yet had the chance to play, here’s a selection ones I’m most looking forward to. There’s not one game so far that’s blown me away, so I’m hoping one of these is the runaway success for us in 2016.

Cry Havoc and Terraforming Mars are games that are high on my list to try simply because of hype. They’re being talked about everywhere by bloggers, youtubers and all over my Facebook feed. We don’t get as much chance as I’d like to play these larger games but I’m hoping to find an opportunity to try them soon.

Pandemic Iberia and Pandemic Reign of Cthulu are the two variants on Pandemic that came out this year that I was initially ignoring because I didn’t see a need for a re-theme of the original game. However, as more people have reviewed them and friends have played both games, it seems like both have some sizeable changes to the game play which makes them more interesting to me. I’d like to give both of them a try and pick a favourite to add to our collection now that the Pandemic Legacy burnout is well and truly over.

Cottage Garden, as far as I’m aware, is a new implementation for the mechanics of Patchwork, but with the ability to play with more than 2 players. We enjoyed Patchwork for a while and recently I got the app which has become quite addictive. I can see us enjoying sharing the tetris-style tile laying with other people, so think we’ll be trying to pick up Cottage Garden in the coming months.

Codenames Pictures is this year’s upgrade to the very popular Codenames. I’ve played Codenames a lot, but never actually owned it, although I’ve been planning on buying it for my new game group at work. Most people have been saying that the Pictures version makes the original game redundant though, so I’ll have to give it a look before buying. I don’t really see how much of a difference words to pictures will make, but I’m willing to find out before deciding.

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